Europe Part 1

June 29, 2017

This is the route we took through Europe:

We cycled in thirteen countries – Portugal, Spain, France, Monaco, Italy, Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, Albania, Macedonia, Greece and Turkey. During July we will continue our tour through Turkey. We are in the Asian part of Istanbul right now, ready to start the last third of our cycle trip around the world.

Now we want to share our Europe story with you.

We started our trip the 10th of April in Lisbon and arrived in Istanbul exactly two months later, the 10th of June. In southern Europe, the summer arrives in April already. I often felt like I was cycling to my graduation as I did when I was a kid – you know when it’s in early June back home in Sweden and everything is so green it can possibly be. The flowers are blooming and the birds are chirping all day long. I think that we chose the absolute best season to cycle through this continent. The nature had not been burnt and turned yellow yet and it was neither too hot nor too cold. The tourist season had not started either so we had the nature and the beaches by ourselves.

We slept in our tent 43 out of 60 nights. Usually we camped in the wild or asked the locals for a safe place to pitch our tent. Surprisingly often, locals offered their own garden to us, even though we could not communicate in the same language. By means of gestures and Google Translate, we told them that we are cycling around the world to raise money for an orphanage in Thailand. Many times the locals answered with a big curious smile, pointing at themselves and asking us to follow them to their home.

Then they pointed out a place in their garden where we could sleep safe during the night, and they also laughed when they realised that all three of us were going to sleep in the same tent. As you can tell, there is nothing wrong with the hospitality and curiosity of Europeans. Below you will see a photo of one of the best campsites we had in Europe. You will also see a photo of Eva and the little gentleman who offered this space to us near his house. He enjoyed sitting on his chair outside the house, taking a coffee and looking out over the mountains of Albania. His family had two cows and they lived in the small shed under him in the photo.

You cannot imagine what an amazing nature there is in Europe. We have seen some of it now, at least every meter of the 4500 km we cycled there. Spain really surprised us with its green landscape, its mountains and all the small mountain villages we passed. The Spanish and French coasts were incredibly beautiful, but it became harder for us to free camp because the villages were so close to each other and between the water and road it was mostly very steep. We travel with a low budget and therefore, this can be a problem for us. For those who are traveling with a budget where there is room for hotel nights and a camping now and then, there are no problems at all. I think the Spanish coast and the French Riviera are the perfect stretch for a new touring cyclist.

Italy became one of our favourite countries in Europe. We crossed the mountains right before Genoa and then we crossed the northern part of Italy. We spent one day at Lake Garda, among vineyards and the Alps in the horizon. We stayed with Andrea who saved us from sleeping on the street a late night when we did not have anywhere to go. Love’s luggage rack got broken just before it got dark and we couldn’t find a place to pitch the tent. The locals were not very helpful and said that it was impossible to put up the tent in that area. We cooked food on our stove on the sidewalk and fixed the luggage rack at the same time

Eva suddenly discovered that there was a Warmshowers guy nearby. Warmshowers is like Couchsurfing but for cyclists. It is a community where cyclists offer other cyclists to stay at their home for free. In exchange you can find new friends and share a lot of experiences. Warmshowers has probably given us some of the best memories during this trip. We have met so many wonderful people through this community. In addition, it is so valuable for all touring cyclists who are traveling with a low budget. We love Warmshowers!

Eva sent an email to the Warmshowers guy that she found and it turned out to be Andrea. The clock was almost 11pm and we decided to write “Hello. This is an emergency”. We sat there on the sidewalk with our dinner in our knees just before midnight, and we said to each other that it must be ok to call this an emergency. Andrea responded quickly “Tonight?!” and he invited us to his house straight away. He really saved us! He thought that our mail was funny and he seemed to like us in reality too since he suggested that we could stay at his place for another day.

It was like Italy felt how much we liked it there, because it took us a lot of extra time to cross the country. We cycled from Lake Garda towards Venice and we got punctures almost once an hour. The daily punctures started already the day when we entered Italy. We had at least one puncture every day. By now we had forgotten what it was like to cycle for a whole day without a puncture and without the procedure that has to be done every time it happens. Something new had also started to happen to our inner tubes – they exploded when we filled them with air. Exciting, or maybe not.

We had to take a new unplanned but memorable rest-day only 120 km since our last rest. We ended up staying with another Warmshowers guy named Alessandro. He lived in a collective on the countryside with some friends. They had goats and a plantation in their garden. He and his friends made us pizza from their own pizza oven and they played guitar and sang for us. Suddenly we didn’t care that much about that our inner tubes exploded like crazy around us. Surrounded by our new happy friends, homemade pizza and baby goats we managed to stop our puncture curse.

I had cycled 15,000 km with the same tires when we entered Italy. They were so worn out that they destroyed my inner tube with a steel wire from the tire itself. My own tire now created all my punctures and explosions, so it was time to replace them with new ones. After our wonderful, unplanned stay at Alessandro’s place, we were able to cycle the rest of the route through Europe almost without one single puncture.

In our next post we will tell you about our cycling along the Balkan coast and about our experiences in Albania and Macedonia. Enjoy the summer and join us through Central Asia on our Instagram and Facebook account.

We also want to encourage you to contribute to a brighter future for the children at Barnhem Muang Mai in Thailand. If you’re not Swedish you can use Paypal – Account number 761 240 888, BIC: HANDSESS or IBAN: SE02 6000 0000 0007 6124 0888.

Mark your donation with your name and “The Happy World Tour”. You can read more about other ways to donate money on our webpage http://thehappyworldtour.com/contribute.